Can’t Afford the Trade Show?
Keep Up with Competitors Through Social Listening Without Ever Leaving Your Desk
David Clark

Attending trade shows and conferences is an excellent way to network and generate leads. But for many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the costs of registration, travel, hotels, booths, promotional materials, and giveaways are just too high. The cost alone of renting a 10×10 booth can average $10,000, which can be daunting to businesses that don’t have the resources to fly around the country promoting products and services.

Instead, you can use social media monitoring to network and interact with those trade show prospects—without ever leaving your desk. The key is to use a social media monitoring tool to find those customers (before, during and after the event) who are posting questions, complaints, inquires, and comments about their participation at the show, what they heard at the show, who is attending, and so on.

Social monitoring tools like SDL SM2 enable companies to ‘map a campaign’ and follow that trade show or conference just as you would if you were attending. For example, you can create searches that target mentions pertaining to your industry, then drill down into the data to find particular posts that could be opportunities to sell your products and services. Your future customers are out there talking; all you have to do start listening!

Here is a step-by-step process for getting started:

1. Research the Event. Follow the trade show campaign before the event happens. Do this by going to the website for the event and finding any relevant groups or hashtags that have been created specifically for the convention. Twitter discussions surrounding the event will be taking place before, during, and after the show. These conversations are treasure troves of useful information, insight, and sales leads.

2. Set up your searches. With SM2 or another social media monitoring tool you can set up specific searches that include the event’s name or hashtags. You can also set up searches based around relevant topics or other industry keywords (with SM2, you can save and update these searches to see how the conversations are developing).

3. Market Yourself. Since you won’t be at the convention to show off your product or service, be sure to create advertisements, landing pages, product pages, or YouTube videos demonstrating the value of your products and services. These can be as simple or complex as necessary, but will still be a fraction of the price as attending the event.

4. Look for Leads. Once searches start to return data, explore the information that is available. For example, SM2 sources from dozens of WordPress blogs, social media networks, review sites, and microblogging sites to find mentions. Filter the information by “Author” to find the main voices in each media or use “Author Tags” to see a visual representation of the top authors from all sources. These authors are now your key influencers. You can disseminate information through them or add them to your sales leads database.

5. “Attend” the Event. If you are on social media, you should be tapped into Twitter while the event is happening. Conversations and questions happen in real time; you can be there with answers and links to all the promotions, pages, and videos that you made during the “Market Yourself” stage.

6. Offer a Promotion. Since other companies will have the opportunity to show off products and offer giveaways, now might be the time to create a special deal as well. If you have done your homework, you should have some idea about what competitors are offering, so throw your hat in the ring by advertising specials through Twitter (using event hashtags).

7. Follow Up. Just because customers attended the event does not mean that they have made concrete purchasing decisions. Now that they are informed about some products/services, you can contact them with information about your brand. Using business intelligence gleamed from customer issues and discussions, you will be prepared to answer all of their questions and make the sale.

David Clark is VP of Product Marketing for SDL.